I like Buster Olney, and there are many reasons why.
He’s a damn fine reporter of Major League Baseball, for one.
He has a man’s voice, unlike Tim Kurkjian, for another.
He’s not a pompous ass, unlike most ESPN analysts, for a third.
Fourth, he tends to come up with some pretty unique points of view in his articles, avoiding the standard fare that many national guys will give you.
And fifth of all, he speaks intelligently and sensibly on television, which can be hard to muster for many journalists.
All that in mind, Buster Olney has done something rather egregious that is worth mentioning: He has picked the Seattle Mariners to finish dead last in the American League West. Insane, I know.
These days, you’re more likely to find a reporter who would peg the M’s to finish first long before he put them in the cellar. Apparently, Olney isn’t one of those reporters. He ranks the AL West in the following order:
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Surrounding Orange County Area Including But Not Limited To Los Angeles and San Diego
2. Texas Rangers
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Seattle Mariners
Though I can’t blame the guy for passing on the teal Kool-Aid (an injury to Cliff Lee, along with serious questions about the offense will make you think twice about the blue drink), it makes you wonder what Olney might instead be guzzling with this ridiculous prognostication.
Olney more or less sees the Mariners as one of the worst teams in baseball. Most experts around the game likely don’t agree with his assessment. Whether or not you’re a believer in Sodo Mojo is irrelevant. Even if you aren’t on the M’s bandwagon just yet, chances are you don’t see them as one of the doormats of the American League. At least I hope not.
I mean, for God’s sake, Olney picks the hapless Oakland Athletics to best the Mariners for third-place in the division. The same A’s who are in perennial rebuild mode. The same A’s who, a season ago, managed just 75 victories and finished 10 games back of their closest competition (the Mariners) while tidying the AL West basement. The same A’s who are banking on the ghost of Eric Chavez to provide something for their ballclub, in spite of the fact that the former Gold Glove third baseman might very well be closer to death than his playing prime.
Perhaps the worst part for Mariners fans is that Olney provides little reasoning behind his mysterious forecast. His commentary on the division is as follows:
“None of these teams has had a good spring, which could be read as a fair barometer for how this division will play out. The Angels still have a great culture of success, so somebody would have to snatch the division title from them. Does any other team have what it takes to make that happen?”
Huh? This basically translates to, “I don’t see anyone beating the Angels, but I don’t really know for sure, so quite possibly anyone could do it.” Dynamite analysis.
Olney asks if any other team has what it takes to topple the mighty Halos. Most people would agree that the Mariners are the closest thing to a challenger in this division, but clearly Olney doesn’t see it that way. No matter that the M’s possess the best one-two pitching punch, the best bullpen, and without a doubt the best defense amongst the four AL West teams. The offense remains suspect, but the M’s proved in 2009 that a powerful hitting attack isn’t necessary to win ballgames. Should anything change in a year?
Whether you love or hate Buster Olney, if you’re a Mariners fan, chances are you disagree with him on this subject.
Buster, I respect your opinion, but regarding the M’s, I have to politely and confidently refute your prediction. This team is no worse than second place in the division, and with the right management team in place (in the dugout and the front office), I have all the faith in the world that the Mariners can win the AL West and make the playoffs this year. Come July, the proper moves will be made to ensure that.
For now, the city of Seattle will simply have to use you as the chip on our collective shoulder. Thanks for the extra motivation.